Port St. Joe Mayor Rex Buzzett said last week that the community would have a much better outline of the local COVID-19 picture this week.
Memorial Day weekend saw the opening by the governor of short-term vacation rentals and local beaches had opened the week prior.
After more than a month under stay-at-home orders, the county reopened to crowds of visitors pouring into southern Gulf County.
The COVID virus has an incubation period of 10-14 days, Buzzett noted, so this week would provide critical clues.
Those clues offer a mixed message.
On the one hand, after going nearly two months with a single case, and after a second was confirmed just a week ago, there are now seven confirmed positive cases in the county.
Further, the number of residents tested is just now nearing 1,000, so there is a way to go before all are tested.
On the other side of the coin, those five new cases hardly represent a spike that, at this point, threatens to overwhelm local health care providers.
None of the seven cases have required hospitalization, all were linked to previous positives, either in the county or out and all are in isolation for at least 14 days.
With each case, the process of contact tracing is undertaken.
“We are working closely with patients, close contacts and health care providers to ensure proper precautions are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus,” said Sarah Hinds, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Gulf and Franklin Counties.
The health department also announced this week it will expand testing at its Port St. Joe facility on Garrison Ave.
The department offers free testing 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. ET Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week.
Patients must be 18 or older and make an appointment by calling the department at 227-1276, but patients do not have to be symptomatic.
This is part of a program the Florida Department of Health launched last month to test at least 2 percent of each county’s population each month.
“We will continue provided COVID-19 testing for Gulf and Franklin residents as well as individuals from other counties or states,” Hinds said.
“That being said, if you suspect you might have COVID-19 please do not travel here. Please get a COVID-19 test in your community and know the results before you arrive. Stay home when you are sick and follow CDC guidelines. Visitors are also responsible for helping keep our communities safe and healthy.”
As of Wednesday’s press time, 997 tests for coronavirus had been performed in Gulf County, according to the Florida Department of Health dashboard, a jump of more than 300 over the prior week.
More tests have likely been performed, Hinds said, but there can be a lag on results from private labs.
The number of positive Florida residents is 64,444, up nearly 14,000 compared to the prior week as testing has ramped up statewide the past since early last month.
There are 11,185 hospitalizations statewide compared to 9,482 a week ago.
Deaths in Florida due to COVID-19 have risen from 2,259 to 2,765.
The state had performed 1.3 million COVID-19 tests as of Wednesday, up nearly 400,000 from the week before.
The FDOH dashboard may be found at https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/96dd742462124fa0b38ddedb9b25e429